The 2015 Game Developers Conference kicked off this week and in true industry event fashion, it’s all anyone in the video game industry can talk about. GDC is massive. The event gathers more than 25,000 attendees, has a press list of nearly 550 media contacts, and is the platform for numerous major announcements from some of the biggest names in gaming. For PR pros trying to get their clients noticed at an event, it begs the question – how do you break through the clutter?
I took to Twitter to find out what some of our favorite gaming reporters had to say about PR and came up with a few tips based on their often witty and oh so very honest tweets.
(1) Schedules book fast, so reach out early
OK, all full on GDC appointments and embargoes. If you have a story to pitch, please wait. Unless it is about Obama starting a game company
(12) Use your resources – a quick Twitter search will turn up droves of info on how a reporter prefers to be pitched, so before sending any #GDC2016 emails next year, be sure to do your research first
To all the reporters included in this post – your #GDC2015 tweets have made this year’s event FAR more entertaining. Please know that some of us PR folks are actually listening, and hopefully next year you won’t have to repeat yourselves.
“What metrics do you use to measure ROI?” – PR Clients, Always – Forever
Some people get chills just reading that question. There are so many ways to measure PR’s value, yet at the same time, it’s a value that can also be very ambiguous and hard to define. Sure, most companies understand that PR is another tool to elevate brand awareness but how do you gauge that? You have to define exactly what it is your brand needs to be successful. Do you want page views? Increased sales? More signups? Incoming calls? Ad space equivalence?
The beginning of our relationship with Simple Energy began a bit like this approach. Not the pornography part. The ROI part.
The client was preparing to launch a new platform and began to discuss what success looks like. New to the world of PR but confident in their place within the industry, the client’s goal was straightforward – let the utility world know about their upcoming platform.
Which is exactly what we did. Trade media, local press, top-tier business publications, door-to-door media relations, we spent two months forging relationships with the top energy and tech media in preparation for an every-changing launch date. And it was a great launch, with glowing, in-depth coverage and interviews from Forbes, The Guardian UK, VentureBeat, The Wall Street Journal and a bevy of trade and local press. Our team delivered insight into messaging pull through, social sharing analytics, competitor mentions, target audiences and media impressions. Every possible ROI measurement was tracked and reported back.
However, at the end of the day, these were not the metrics that mattered most. Sure, they were elated at the coverage and the potential eyeballs noticing their brand. But at the end of launch week, they were over the moon about the number of leads they’d received from the coverage. When the dust settled, the number of phone calls coming into their office measured the true value of our PR efforts.
Not every client has the luxury of tying PR directly to sales. Many still have to take a different route to judge the true ROI of their agency’s PR efforts, which is all well and good. But when we’re able to directly tie PR to sales leads and enhancing the bottom line, it makes our job refreshing and most importantly, the client happy. And that’s the best ROI we can ask for.
Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is a thing. I have gone back and forth on it myself, but this year I find myself asking, “What Would Churchill Do?”
A self-proclaimed optimist, Churchill would say that Valentine’s Day is just another difficulty with which to find an opportunity. After taking a step back, I have discovered that Valentine’s Day has taught me three life lessons that I try to apply to PR every day.
1) Set expectations
Whether you have been dating forever or just met last week, you need to set expectations for each other in advance of the holiday. When my husband and I began dating and Valentine’s Day was around the corner, I shot him a quick email that went something like this:
OK, well, he didn’t say exactly that, but you get the idea. I learned that setting expectations head on is a good way to go.
It’s the same principle I use for PR; whether I’m talking to a client about anticipated coverage on an announcement or to a reporter on an embargo date, I aim to clearly communicate actions and expectations. Time and again, setting expectations has prevented disappointment and heartache.
2) One size doesn’t fit all
According to the History Channel, 58 million pounds of chocolate candy is bought and sold during Valentine’s Day week. Chances are, if you give someone a heart-shaped box of chocolates, they will not slap you in the face. But they will not think you are anything to write home about.
At BPR, we think about this every day. As Rachel previously noted, our value lies within our creativity and our knack for telling our clients’ stories in an inspiring way. In this world of communication overload, the same cut and paste pitch is not going to stand out and it will not give you the results that your clients are expecting and deserve. Personalize your gift and personalize your story. Period.
3) Give them a reason to brag
What’s simultaneously one of the best and worst things about Valentine’s Day? OK, there are probably a lot of things that fit this category. What I’m thinking about is the day after Valentine’s Day, when you have to/get to hear about the diamond earrings and puppy that your coworker received from her boyfriend the night before. As annoying as it is when someone brags, you can’t help but be a little jealous and think that your coworker’s boyfriend is pretty cool. I want a Valentine’s Day puppy!
The thing is, we all want to give our clients puppies and make them happy. Happy clients brag about their awesome teams, and that can lead to new business opportunities. That’s why when business comes in through word-of-mouth, we feel extra warm and fuzzy inside because we know that we gave our client the “puppy.”
Valentine’s Day is here to stay. In other words the opportunities in public relations are infinite. You just have to be willing to find them.
When I first started reading Burned out Bloggers Guide to PR by Jason Kincaid, I was admittedly a little nervous. Jason starts the book off by saying how much reporters don’t like PR people, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read a book smashing my profession. But, I quickly came to find out that Jason and I agree on many things. One of which is that crappy PR people are the worst. We only have ourselves to blame here folks. We’ve allowed for bad PR to become our defining factor. And now is the time to make practicing good PR our thing. Here are some tips to help have faith restored in us:
Make real relationships:
We’ve all heard this one before. “Build relationships, make contacts, blah blah blah.” Well, I have some news for you: reporters know they are looked at like the door way to your success. Instead of telling them you like hairless rabbits because you recently saw a tweet that referenced them liking hairless rabbits, be real and genuinely try to connect with the person. No one wants to be fake friends with someone, just like reporters don’t want to be exploited all day long. Real relationships in the PR/reporter funnel are a rare breed, but when they are genuine and thoughtful, they just might hold actual value. Relationships should be mutually beneficial. So stop being selfish and be friendly, it’s that simple. Not everyone is going to want to be your friend (just think about elementary school, those were some rough years), but the ones who are will be keepers.
Have a story:
Reporters are fully aware that some pitches are chalk full of BS. Shocking, I know. So lets try something new, lets remove the BS from the pitch and see what we are left with. Anything good still in there? Then proceed to go. If you’re eyes start to glaze over as you read it, do not collect $200 and go straight to jail. Get your angel down first: Why do people need to know this information, why should they care, why are you the person to tell this story? If you’re able to answer these questions without having to add in fluff, chances are you’ll have a good story.
Pro tip: Add an interesting or unique angle to each pitch that relates to that specific reporters beat and style, this just might help your chances. And reduces duplicate stories.
Don’t be wrong:
If you are unsure that the information you are putting out into the world is accurate, omit. Jason says on multiple occasions how much reporters hate to be wrong, and you don’t want to be the one feeding them wrong information. But really, why pitch information that isn’t true? You only run the risk of pissing off the reporter, ruining your relationship with the reporter and never being able to pitch them again, ruining respect from your client for losing said reporter, and all for what? Yea. Just don’t do it. Okay?
Above all else, we need to be better as a group at practicing good PR. We won’t always get it right, we will make mistakes at times; we are only human. As Phoebe would say, “I need to live in a land where people can spill.” And spill you will my friend, but it’s what we take away from the mess ups that help us grow as PR professionals and perfect our craft. There is great value in what we do, but we can’t allow bad PR to taint our worth. So get out and gain some respect back from the people we work with on a daily basis. I’m looking at you burned out bloggers.
I often feel as though climbing mountains and rocks is much easier than the uphill climb PR professionals face on a daily basis. When I reach my destination, there’s always an inspiring view patiently waiting to provide insight on my battles. I feel accomplished. In PR, sometimes I can set and send several pitches and never make it off the ground.
Several years ago I fell into PR. I had just come back from Europe with an empty bank account and a looming, despondent feeling that I had still not found my “calling” in life. After desperately scouring Craigslist, I was hired by a tech public relations firm and thrust into a foreign world of never ending buzzwords. The first thing I very quickly learned about PR was the existence of a layered disdain, and borderline disrespect, for the profession. This has weighed heavily on my mind. At its core, PR is about managing an image. So how could a profession so concerned with perception have such a perception issue of its own? Last week, I learned that answer.
“The PR industry has done the exact same thing for the last 40 years, but every industry around it has changed.” – Seth Levine, Managing Director at Foundry Group.
“I work in PR.” – I am, in fact, in possession of several journalists’ email addresses. – TechCrunch
Before the Internet, PR was about access. If you had a story or wanted to comment on one, you called on a PR professional who had the connections you needed to get into the publications you wanted. Post-Internet, access is a defunct bargaining chip. Connectivity is anyone’s game. While no longer the purpose of PR, this industry continues to operate as if access is the sole leveraging power of the profession—and the reason I exist.
During a discussion with Seth, he highlighted that the value of PR now lies in helping companies tell a story that will make an impact on a 24-hour news cycle. Positioning. Providing active advice about what story a company should be telling, to what reporter and why, versus promising a company droves of coverage from whoever will write. And, staying true to Barokas PR, cutting out the bullshit, pushing back on ideas that may not be the best use of time, and being PR partners – never vendors.
This was such a simple notion, but it completely changed my outlook on the future of PR. There will always be a place for this profession. It’s the role of PR that must adapt. And for those unwilling to adapt, make way for those of us who are.
Journalism was once thought to be a dying field, but in actuality, it’s the way we consume news that has changed. Whether we access news from our Twitter feeds, our mobile devices or our smart TVs, stories will always be available in some shape or form.
But in an ever-connected world, journalists have struggled to keep eyes on the page (and on the screen.) Many readers are now only willing to scan the first few sentences before something diverts their attention elsewhere. Cue the shift – the meteoric shift – of many news services to ditch the traditional news layout and add flashy photos, GIFs and videos.
This has been tried-and-true formula of BuzzFeed. Whether the story is focused on the outbreak of Ebola, or the best Weird Al moments of 2014, the layout stays fairly static – large photos with short descriptors in a list format. The method has proved to work quite well – they have a monthly audience of 150 million and counting – and that’s why so many PR professionals strive to get their clients featured on Buzzfeed.
Placing a story on BuzzFeed is easier said than done. Sure, the story you pitched sounds funny to you, but will millions of BuzzFeed readers share it on Facebook? If you’ve yet to get a response, I’m guessing the answer is no. BuzzFeed is a tough cookie to crack, so when your client is looking for consumer-facing publications, suggest BuzzFeed Community.
BuzzFeed Community is an offshoot of the main site that allows for placement of user-curated content. Whether you’re a brand, a CEO or just someone who unearthed a trend in Ryan Gosling’s Instagram posts, the floor is yours.
BuzzFeed offers guidelines for Community posts and explains how to generate viewership. Posts are fairly easy to construct with a user-friendly CMS (note that each photo and blurb needs to be posted to your story separately). BuzzFeed has an analytics feature for each post, showing whether users are accessing the story from social sites, email or organically. Community posts are often aggregated to the BuzzFeed homepage if your content is worthwhile.
Last night, I had the privilege of attending a great Andreessen Horowitz event featuring Judy Smith, the real-life inspiration for one of my favorite television shows – Scandal. If you’re in PR, the show’s lead character, Olivia Pope, likely tops your list of superheroes.
As introduced by Ben Horowitz, Judy is the “world’s greatest crisis manager. If you’re ever in trouble, Judy is the person to call.” Judy’s firm has advised such notable people as Monica Lewinsky, NFL quarterback Michael Vick, and Sony Pictures Entertainment after their 2014 cyber attack.
Based on the conversation, I can certainly say that Judy is every bit as wise and confident as Kerry Washington’s character, if not more. And for all you fans of the show, the real life Harrison was also in the audience.
Here are a few of my key takeaways from Judy’s Q&A with Ben:
Crisis management is a developed skill: Calm, cool and collected isn’t just a talking point. Your client needs to feel this from you from the first moment they talk to you. Also be prepared to not only defend your strategy, but have 4-5 examples of people or companies that chose an alternative route and what happened.
There is an opportunity that comes from crisis: Judy shared a story about how she and her childhood friend got into many scuffles trying to play peacemaker on the playground (crisis management starts when you’re young folks!). In this case, her opportunity was signing up for karate lessons and earning her black belt – there’s always a silver lining even if it isn’t clear at the time the crisis hits.
Your strength often ends up being the thing that gets you in to trouble: If you have a client where this is the case try pointing out the things that led them to this point. They need to recognize the weakness in the strength so they can watch for it moving forward.
Only take on clients you can help: As Judy said, some things just aren’t fixable, and when that’s the case it’s in everyone’s best interest to pass on working together. When asked about clients that don’t share the whole truth, Judy also noted, “you can’t help people if they don’t tell the truth. You can’t plan a winning strategy if you don’t have the facts. When you first meet a client facts can be ‘evolving.’ A lot of time crisis work is like a chess game, you want to anticipate moves.” By telling the truth, you can frame the narrative vs. reacting to it.
Be authentic: “When you screw up you have to own that. Be authentic. People can smell the BS. You have to really mean it.” Judy mentioned she doesn’t like to script or write statements; she asks the client “what would you want to say?” That’s where you start.
Trust your gut: A consistent theme on Scandal is Olivia trusting her gut. For example, Judy said she likes to understand, from either an individual or a corporation, what will be the outcome of her help. Will the client make changes so they don’t go down a repeat path? She joked that while repeat business is good for the bottom line, you want to know that your help is resulting in a change for the better. Your gut will guide you to this answer.
Social media has changed crisis management: According to Judy, “Social media has given the individual so much power. We used to say get out in front of it. Now you have to catch up with it, and insert your position. Stories move with lightening speed. Make sure you assess how you want to respond and what you want to say and when. Otherwise, you are left behind.”
One of my favorite stories of the night had to do with the topic of loyalty. Judy worked for President Bush on his re-election campaign. When all signs pointed towards a loss, other members of the team immediately began looking for other jobs. Judy commented that when she commits, she gives 120 percent and then some, and never took her eye off the ball or thought about what’s next. Out of his respect for her loyalty, the President spoke highly of Judy to several of his contacts in the business sector. In less than a week, Judy received calls from seven Fortune 100 CEOs, each offering her a position at their company. I really connected with this story, as loyalty is a quality I highly admire in our own team.
On a personal note, it was great to say hello to Ben and the Andreessen Horowitz team. I started my PR career working on Opsware and it was so much fun to be at an event featuring the best in the PR biz hosted by one of my first clients. One of the night’s best audience reactions came from a question to Ben about who he would want to play him on TV. In true Ben fashion, the response…Drake!
As we begin a new year, it is always a time for reflection. We begin to think about the past year – successes, disappointments, and changes we’d like to make moving forward to the next. While many are planning to kick that bad habit, lose those extra five pounds, or start a new hobby, I’d like to focus on some resolutions for those of us who work in Public Relations.
Refresh Your Email Habits
Email is the heart and soul of modern business communication and many professionals, especially PR folks, are guilty of overusing it. Moving into 2015, we need to tame the beast and modify how we use email. For example, if more than three emails have been traded on a topic, pick up the phone and call. Being able to bounce ideas off of one another instantaneously can help you reach a conclusion quicker, saving time and frustration. In the instances where email is the best means of communication, keep it short. Implementing bullets is a good way to keep a note digestible. The shorter and more succinct you can be, the better – journalists and clients will thank you.
Write First, Edit Later
People in PR are often asked, “So… what exactly do you do?” All of us have a different way of answering, but the one constant descriptor is, “we write a lot.” From day one, writing is something PR folks should be actively working on. However, our busy schedules often get the best of us and we normally end up quickly churning something out so we can check it off our to-do list.In this process, we lose the chance to thoroughly revise our writing. 2015 should be the year of the “write first, edit later” strategy. Stepping away from a project for even a few minutes can help you catch mistakes or find a better way to phrase a tough sentence. Not only will this increase your confidence in your work, but also will spare your managers and clients editing time.
Remember Reporters are People too
In PR, it’s easy to feel like reporters are the Big Bad Wolf and you’re a wee Little PR Piggy. But in reality, those reporters are the exception. Reporters are just like you and me – busy, tired, and receiving too many emails. In 2015, use this knowledge to your advantage. In communications with reporters, keep it casual, friendly, concise and, most importantly, keep it interesting. Some reporters claim to receive upwards of a few hundred pitches a day. Using a ‘sexy’ or unique subject line is a great way grab their attention. If you had a hundred emails in your inbox, would that subject line entice you to open it?
Find a Balance
It’s no secret that the world of media operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As PR goes hand-in-hand with media, it’s easy for us to fall into a similar pattern, and smart phones are our enablers. When that familiar notification sound goes off, it’s easy to quickly read and respond to an email. However, this strains the balance between work and home, which is crucial for both your professional and personal success. 2015 is your chance to break the habit. Resist the urge to continuously check your email when you get home or on weekends. Let your colleagues and clients know if they need to reach you after hours they can call, or that you will check email at a specified time each night. Giving yourself some downtime will help you be a better friend, spouse, and employee.
On a final note, PR is known for being a thankless job. Remember to thank your colleagues and clients for all they do, and most importantly, remember to thank yourself! Cheers to 2015!
All right stop, Collaborate and listen” – Vanilla Ice
In the magical world of public relations, one of the many (or few, depending on what day you’re asking) perks of the job is storytelling, being able to craft a rich narrative to help tell the stories of our clients. But sometimes, finding these stories requires some Sherlock-style investigating (the BBC version, not the Robert Downey Jr. version). While product announcements, press tours, and funding news can help drive media awareness, most companies have untapped resources that have been too long overlooked—content published from a client’s internal team.
A growing number of companies have designated their blogs as a place for employees to share personal experiences and write on timely topics in which they’re passionate. Corporate blogging is nothing new and is still one of the best ways for a company to promote its culture and showcase its personality. But it’s also a great avenue for employees to contribute to the company’s content base, and this is where magic can truly happen.
Now the caveat: While we as PR peeps love to see companies blog and showcase their opinions, we often find ourselves reading these amazing ideas AFTER they’ve already been published and shared with the general public. So we’re kind of feeling that weird mix of jubilation and regret. You know, the one you get after eating an entire carton of ice cream in one sitting.
The byproduct of this feeling is a new term we’ve coined: ‘PR Pause,’ which we feel best describes our recommended approach with these hidden content gold mines. So what exactly is ‘PR Pause?’ It’s pretty simple actually. It’s just us asking clients to ‘hold that thought’ before they publish valuable content on their website. Not stop doing it. Just holding it.
While there are many aspects to PR, content marketing is a strategy many are still working to leverage and improve. And some companies don’t yet realize how valuable their personal insight can really be, and that many of their ideas and blog content can be stretched to a wider audience, driving more external awareness.
In PR, we spend a great deal of time strategizing new and unique ways to position our clients as industry experts. Often times, the solution is right in front of our face… under the “blog” dropdown menu on a company’s website. By taking these ideas and crafting them for a broader audience – which requires the always-uncomfortable conversation of asking clients to strip out any self-promotional content – and making the material more vendor-neutral, these ‘gold mines’ can drive much more awareness than a standard corporate blog post.
By taking pause and thinking through the best channel to distribute internal corporate thinking, the company – and selfishly, PR people too – can reach a whole new level of audience.
Working in public relations is not for the faint of heart. Choosing this career is like choosing to re-live your first day at a new school over and over- comfort from hints of familiarity mixed with anxiety over the unknown, the stress of curveballs here and there, and nonstop activity.
Every day is different; constantly fielding new tasks, attempting to charm strangers, and organizing and re-ordering never-ending to-do lists. While this schedule keeps things interesting, I would be lying if I said that it didn’t wear on you after a while. Those of us in PR chose this career path because we are go getters, scrappy, and hard as nails. We stick around because of the agency support system surrounding us. Don’t be mistaken though, this inter-company “lean on me” mentality didn’t build itself.
A strong focus on the improvement and growth of company culture through office wide non-work related activities is crucial in the upkeep of overall happiness, commitment to performance, and employee retention. Studies found that highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their companies than their disengaged counterparts. Never arranging opportunities for team members and co-workers to spend stress-free time together can be a disservice to even the toughest of PR pros.
Every few months, Barokas plans a number of events for its employees. From a scavenger hunt that took over Pioneer Square, to harvesting squash for United Way, to an annual taco-filled beer pong tournament, to organizing a friendly office vs. office competition to see who can collect the most food for Thanksgiving, our events promote camaraderie and help us build relationships with one another outside of our to-do lists. And last month was no exception; BPR chose between Team Peeta and Team Gail at the premiere of The Hunger Games!
With office worries eliminated, these opportunities allow employees to get to know each other as they are “in real life,” garnering a greater understanding and tolerance of different work and communication styles. Additionally, this time spent together fosters a level of trust and openness that allows for the kind of shameless brainstorm sessions where history is made.
So many companies these days casually claim to have the “work hard, play hard” policy. With a fierce dedication to our clients, an average speed of a million miles per minute, and enjoying a few laughs (and beers) along the way, we like to think we live by it.